BMW has announced another big investment in Mini production facilities on top of the £500 million announced last year.
This brings BMW's total investment to £1.75 billion since 2000. While the latest investment announcement does not imply a significant number of new jobs, it does provide job security for the 5,500 employees at the factories at Cowley (assembly), Birmingham (engines) and Swindon (body pressings).
However, the announcement also includes the news that some more Mini production will be based overseas. BMW says the Cowley plant is now at full capacity, so it is looking at adding an assembly facility at Nedcar in the Netherlands. Nedcar was originally a DAF factory, then a Volvo plant making the 340 and 440. Since 2001, it has been fully owned by Mitsubishi, but it was due to close this year.
Nevertheless, BMW is at pains to point out that this does not undermine Cowley, saying, "Just as Munich is the centre of the BMW world, Oxford is and will remain the home and the heart of Mini."
The background to all these announcements is the preparation for the third-generation BMW Mini, due from 2013. The first model will be the classic three door hatchback, but a five door is expected to follow in 2014 and more body styles will be added by 2016. It appears that a baby MPV and even a three-box-saloon will follow. Proving that there is nothing new under the sun, there was actually a Mini saloon sold in the mid 1960s under the names Riley Elf and Wolseley Hornet. It will be interesting to see if heritage-conscious BMW plans to dust off one of these names for the new model.